The place where the JT4 began: Crondon Park GC – My Second Home.

“The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody put a flagstick on top.”  

– Pete Dye (World renown golf course architect/designer)

SO, where is this journey taking place? When I decided where to pursue the JT4, I wanted it to be a place where it would begin, and hopefully end. The criteria I set were clear; it had to have Championship Course status, it needed to measure long and be minimum Par 72. And above all else, it had to be extremely challenging.

The first time I played Crondon was as a guest of a member whom is a friend of mine, being a member’s only club. I remember the round vividly, as I recall I walked off battered – shooting a gross score of 102. I had not shot a 3 digit score for quite some time when playing the other local/smaller courses around me….so this really was a reality check. However, I was hooked, and fell in love with the place.

Measuring over 6620 yards off the member’s tees, and nearly 7000 yards! off the professional tees, the course certainly ticked the box in terms of length. I remember walking it during that first ever round and it felt like I had played 22 holes, not 18! In fact, the 18th finishing hole once had the title of the “longest par 5 in the WORLD” at 860 yards! It played unofficially as a par 6. The hole no longer plays that long, but remains a menacing Par 5 at over 660 yards. Check out the BBC News link added….

Length is not its only defence however. Water (and copious amounts of it) comes into play on 8 of the 18 holes, including that monstrous 18th finishing hole. The lay out is such that you have to know your distances if you want to remain “dry”. I can think of just a handful of times when there has been little wind at Crondon Park, thus making the water features extremely important to respect.

If the above is not soul destroying enough, when the course was originally designed and built in 1994, over 21,000 trees were planted. Now mature, no matter which of the holes you are playing, you are invisible and constantly secluded from all of the other holes, a real tree lined parkland course.

The battle had begun:

So needless to say, I joined the club immediately. I knew instantly that if I were to “get low” around this course, I could play good golf almost anywhere else. In fact even now at the time of posting this blog, I can’t help but feel that my handicap would most likely be 2 shots lower when I play other local courses. So why stay?? Well the answer is simple; I do not want an easy route! Week by week, for the past two and a half years, I never get bored playing this wonderful and sometimes stressful golf course. It beats me up at times, and fills me with immense joy on other occasions.

It’s my home.

 

I & I: Inspiration and Influence

“To give yourself the best possible chance of playing to your potential, you must prepare for every eventuality. That means practice.”

– Seve Ballesteros

Who has inspired me? I will start off by saying that I only recall having one golfing hero or influence as a teenager. One or two others come to mind which I will talk about further on. Fortunately however, there have been many influencing players to choose from, and so many golfing legends that have – in their own individual way – influenced me. From “senior” geniuses like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo to name just a few, right the way through to modern-day greats such as Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rory Mcilroy…the list is enormous.

TW:

It would be repugnant of me to disregard Tiger Woods from that list of greats. In my own personal opinion, the modern game that we golfers enjoy is a result of Tiger. His achievements on the whole are currently unmatched, and in my opinion, will remain so for quite some time. The dominance he has shown together with such strength in the mind has been phenomenal to witness. He also showed the importance of the physical FITNESS side of the sport, which still today remains “key” in terms of success in the sport. It has been a huge influence to myself in my own fitness routines and gym work. Finally and on a personal note, he also hit the best golf shot I have ever seen to date, at the 2005 Masters, which I hope to remember until my deathbed.

My Hero and my guidance…

There is one person however, who I have always looked up to, even in my teens. When most people of my age category were admiring the likes of TW and Phil Mickleson, I couldn’t help my ‘attraction’ to one certain player. And since finding my passion for the game, the admiration for this man has simply grown to the extent whereby I almost feel like I truly owe him something. He is the late Severiano Ballesteros Sota – “Seve”.

Seve for me optimised everything a golfer should be; from the swashbuckling style of his golf swing, through his immensely clever shot manufacturing and creativity, to his winning mentality and mental strength. Seve managed to display all of this and still maintain his kind persona and likeable characteristics. Whilst perhaps controversial at times to some people, it was during those controversial moments though when he displayed his brutal honesty and maintained his integrity – which I absolutely love and adore.

I have sat for hours upon hours, watching my collection of Seve documentaries, and each time the determination and level of practice which he put into the game as a child and adult, amazes me. Through adversity, he never gave up on his dreams and it is this example of sheer will and effort that drives me on my JT4, and gives me belief that anything may be possible.

Methodology behind the JT4: What lengths would you go to?

“I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish”

– Chuck Norris

 

I knew from day one, that this was not going to resemble learning to ride a bike. Was I biting off more than I can chew? Perhaps. But I asked myself how would I know if I didn’t try? Moreover, how would I feel in three decades time if I didn’t try and was unable to do so?

I believe, and quite firmly, that if you want to achieve something, you CAN. There are many factors involved in how you achieve that goal however. In fact, many may even be an understatement. Expectations are a huge key factor in terms of success. Desire also plays the important role, a role that cannot be bypassed. As for time, for me this coincides with patience.

Example. I will use the sport of Snooker (or billiards for some readers outside of the UK). Now I would like to be able to walk up to a table, and make a 100 break, comfortably. Could I do it….not a chance. If I played snooker once a week, would I achieve it then? Maybe, but probably not. But I would NOT expect to. I believe that you cannot automatically master something simply as quick as you would like to. This connects to most things in life.

However, if I spent 3 hours per day in a local snooker hall, 5 days per week, for 12 months, would I make that century then? I think the chances have just become greater. And those chances of success would become even more likely if I repeated the same routine for 24 months….I think I’d make more than one century break, just like anyone else would if they applied themselves to the process.

 

It doesn’t have to be sport however. The same methodology and ideology can be applied to anything you want to achieve greatness. Let’s take pottery! Am I good at it and could i make a beautiful vase? Absolutely not. I could not, once again, expect to. But if I took 5 pottery classes per week, for 12 months straight, would I emerge from that classroom with a piece of pottery worth of display? Of course, I believe so. And once again, if you spent the same amount of dedication to the art over 36 months, you would make immensely good pieces of work.

 

And therein lies the key, dedication. If you were to decide that you ‘don’t have time’ or not ‘enough patience’ to apply such efforts, then frankly you do not want it bad enough. It is perfectly understandable, life can become busy, schedules can become tight, and you simply dont have space to implement such efforts to one subject. Again, that’s absolutely fine, but one cannot expect to achieve greatness. I am fortunate enough at this stage of my life, at the time of posting, to be able to afford such time to golf, but not just that, but because I WANT to. More than anything. Why some may ask? Because it’s my passion. And there is the key to all of the above.

 

I apperceive that I would not achieve a golf handicap of 4 playing once a fortnight. It simply would not happen. Similarly, if I played once per week, but did not practice in the periods between, the movement would remain static. Nothing great (in normal circumstances) will come to you, instead you have to be prepared to go and be great. And if that takes hard work, time, effort and everything you have, so be it.

Therefore I knew from the start that I would have to devote as much energy, as much effort, as much thinking, time, passion, and heart into the game to simply TRY and achieve my goal. And if this doesn’t work initially, I simply will need to repeat and try once again, perhaps harder. I simply cannot give up, if I’m not giving my all – giving up will not reach the goal.

If this equates to having to play 3 times per week, and practice 4 times, so be it. That is what it takes. If it takes more, then so be it. And this will be repeated until I do achieve it, and because of the passion within, I will find and make time to do it, BECAUSE it’s what I desire the most.

 

It all forms part of the journey.

First blog – Chasing Dreams; What is The Journey to 4?

 

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

Welcome to my ‘Blogumentary’ The Journey to 4, which going forward will be referred to as JT4. So, what is the journey, and why? What is the purpose of my JT4 blog and what do I plan to do with it? Over the next 15 minutes, all will be explained below.

In a stark contrast to one of my personality dislikes (lateness), this golfing blog is, in actual fact, two and a half years late, ironically. That said and on a positive note, I have this vast amount of time to write about, to bring you up to speed on this ‘Blogumentary’.

The beginning:

I played the beautiful game of golf as a teenager. This was purely for fun, amongst football, basketball, tennis, and so on. It was during my late teens that I discovered nightclubs and alcohol (and all the fun that comes with both). As a result, my golf clubs sadly did not see a tee box for quite some time.

Fast forward a decade and to my late twenties. My brother (who is actually my cousin but the closest thing to me), was admirably serving his time in the British Armed Forces. During the odd weekends on which he returned home, we required some form recreation that allowed us to spend numerous hours together, to be able to talk and share stories, but also to be able to have fun. Enter the game of Golf.

We would play a round of golf on the Saturday morning, losing a dozen balls as well as our tempers on occasion, and occasionally shooting awful “3 digit” scores, paying good money for the privilege. Yet those 4 hours together with the beer after was for us….what it was all about. We repeated this each and every time he returned home, for at least a couple of years. They were good times.

The Bug: Now it was during these bonding/recreation years that you could say I was bitten by the ‘golf bug’. Slowly, and gradually, I found myself enjoying the game more and more. I was beginning to remember that feeling of excitement as a younger teenager of going to play golf with my father and his friends (you know, before I discovered night clubs etc.). It helped that I began losing fewer balls, and all of a sudden, the shots started to go straight at the target – sometimes.

This continued and the bug within me grew dramatically, golf was on my mind pretty much 24/7. By dramatically, I mean that I found myself awakening at 5.30am, grabbing “my sticks” to go play golf, allowing myself to be first on the course. This spiralled into the summer evenings, when all of a sudden I was quickly changing after a day’s work, and driving straight to whichever was the closest golf course at the time. Magazines, books, internet articles, I was reading them all, and could not get enough. I remember as a young teenager mocking my father for watching the sport of golf on TV – insisting it was boring to watch. Fifteen years later, I found myself tuning in to coverage of every tournament being aired, and happy to stay up until the early hours engrossed.

Passion: Some say (or believe) that every single person in the entire world has an underlying passion for something within them. I am one of those believers. However unfortunately, it seems that not everyone manages to discover their ultimate passion, which saddens me. This could be something that you have never tried before, thus not even realising. For example, one may not have ever played chess before, yet unbeknown to them, they may have a hidden passion (and talent) for it, and so on.

For me and gratefully, I had found my ultimate passion in life. When I say passion, I truly mean something that I would find incredibly difficult to live without. There have been occasions where I would be standing on the kerb waiting for the traffic to pass, and I’d begin to practice my putting stroke there on the spot! Or I would go to the practice green with a dozen golf balls and would only realise I have been there for 5 hours when I see the moon and start to lose light. I would be down at the range hitting golf balls until I had to stop due to the blisters on my hands! I’d find myself daydreaming things such as; “what if I change this grip or what if I move my stance, I think that would work”. Invariably it wouldn’t/or didn’t. Yet I was so excited to go try, I could hardly wait for work to finish or for the weekend to arrive. Rain, wind, frost, nor high summer temperatures; nothing would stop me.

The JT4 Decision

Two years and five months ago in April 2015, I had made a ‘radical’ decision, to chase a dream.

I pondered the possibility… could an “average Joe” make it to a Handicap of 4, with just hard work, sheer willpower and determination? Is that enough, or does there have to be a god given talent to get there? How much dedication and focus would it take if it is possible? Also, why 4?

Rarely in life have I ever set such goals when I think back – a somewhat sad fact on reflection! Therefore I decided to experiment and try. I made a decision to devote the next 5 years of my life to achieve the goal. I knew it was never going to be easy, if indeed possible. There also has to be a PROCESS to be followed strictly – which I will comment more on during this ‘Blogumentary’. I also accepted that I will require assistance, in numerous areas; from coaching & fellow players, to very understanding girlfriends and family. However whatever it takes, 100% of both time and focus will need to be given.

As for the goal of 4, why that number you may ask? Well the first & simple explanation (and another fact about me) is that due to slight OCD, I do not like odd numbers! Also, and the reality behind the decided number, was that IF I can indeed get to 4, not only would I be in reach of PGA Club Professional status, but I believe that I would almost certainly stand a chance of making it to scratch. However 4 must be the initial goal.

 

“So where am I presently”?

I will back date my journey in further blogs, and continue to update as it progresses. However at the time of writing and posting this first blog – 2 years and 5 months into the JT4 – I have made it down to 9.8 HCP from an initial “3 card” handicap of 17.6.

Is this good progression, or not so much?? I guess arguments for both views could be had, as there are many additional factors to be considered – which will be documented. As with life’s general up’s and down’s that we all encounter, the JT4 has not been without several hurdles, including injuries. Am I happy so far? Indeed. This was never going to be a quick “experiment” or easy journey for that matter, hence the initial 5 year allocated time frame. But it would be difficult not to be happy having experienced such improvement.

There is no doubt in my mind that the JT4 is only going to get harder – I am both mentally and physically prepared for that. Particularly as the highly desired “single figure” is now close. But as I will mention in further posts, this means adapting the mind-set together with altering the attitude towards the goal and what is required of me to get there.

The JT4 nevertheless continues, and I will also be feeding my #Instagram with updates/pictures/videos as well as this blog, so follow the JT4 with me…